BYU opens season with 110-63 victory over Houston Christian

BYU opened the 2023-24 season with a 110-63 victory over Houston Christian in front of 13,130 fans at the Marriott Center on Monday evening.

Spencer Johnson drives to the basket against Houston Christian.Spencer Johnson drives to the basket against Houston Christian.

PROVO, Utah — BYU opened the 2023-24 season with a 110-63 victory over Houston Christian in front of 13,130 fans at the Marriott Center on Monday evening. 

Spencer Johnson scored a career-high 20 points as the Cougars' 110 points are most under Pope and mark the fifth time they have eclipsed the century mark. Trevin Knell, playing in his first game in 593 games, finished with 19 points, going 5-of-9 from 3-point range. 

BYU attempted a program record 43 3-pointers, connecting on 15 of them which is tied for the fifth-most in a single game in program history. The Cougars also outrebounded HCU, 59-25, only allowing the Huskies to pull down one offensive rebound on 32 missed shots.

"We're not going to be able to get 43 3-pointers up in a lot of games, but we're going to fight to get them up," head coach Mark Pope said. "I'm really proud of the 43 3-pointers and I'm really proud of the 21 offensive rebounds.  Sometimes you can't get them and you’re going to have to win in a different way, but this is a staple of who we want to be." 

The Cougars shot 47.6 percent from the floor, 34.9 percent from three and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. They had 27 assists on 40 makes while only turning the ball over nine times. 

First Half
Knell put the Cougars on the scoreboard early as he connected on a 3-point shot from the left wing 11 seconds into the contest. Two minutes later, he was fouled on another 3-pointer and connected on 2-of-3 shots from the line. Fousseyni Traore scored four straight points in the paint to give the Cougars an early lead of 9-6 four minutes into the contest. 

The Cougars increased their lead to double figures as they went on a 7-0 run powered by Trey Stewart making a layup, drawing a foul and sinking a free throw. The next play, Knell connected on his second 3-pointer of the night. Two free throws by sophomore Richie Saunders and a Jaxson Robinson 3-pointer in transition gave BYU a 21-8 lead heading into the first media timeout. 

BYU continued to find success in transition as Johnson found the bottom of the net for another Cougar 3-pointer. Two offensive rebounds led to two easy baskets in the paint for Dallin Hall and Robinson. Another Johnson 3-pointer pushed the lead to 25 (35-12) entering the second media timeout of the half. 

A pair of 3-pointers from Johnson and Waterman pushed the Cougar lead to 31 with four minutes left in the half. Knell then connected on his fourth 3-point make of the night as he led all scorers with 14 points in the first 20 minutes of play. In the final minute of play in the first half, Richie Saunders and Robinson both made 3-pointers and the Cougars entered the locker room with a commanding 56-18 lead, the largest halftime lead for Pope. 

Second Half
The Cougars picked up right where they left off scoring eight points in the first two minutes of the second half: six coming from transition layups forcing the Huskies to call a quick timeout. Following the timeout, Waterman connected on his second 3-pointer of the night and Knell connected on his fifth. BYU led 74-30 entering the first media timeout of the half. 

Following the media timeout, Waterman made his third 3-pointer of the game as Hall found him open on the left wing. Robinson and Aly Khalifa synced up for a give-and-go with Robinson earning the dunk directly followed by a 3-point make the next trip down the court. The Cougars led 82-36 moving into the second media timeout of the half. 

Out of the timeout, Hall and Johnson combined for ten points finding holes in Houston Christian’s defense and scoring inside the paint. Johnson then found Khalifa at the top of the key for a 3-pointer and Waterman under the basket for a layup. Waterman was fouled on an offensive rebound-putback and made his second free throw to put the Cougars in triple digits ahead 100-57.

With five minutes left to play, Johnson found Stewart ahead in transition for a two-handed slam. Stewart chipped in another two points and Atiki Ally Atiki tracked down an offensive rebound for a putback. Freshman Townsend Tripple sunk two free throws in the final minutes as the Cougars improved to 5-0 in season openers under Pope. 

Up next, the Cougars will host the No. 17 San Diego State Friday night at 7 p.m MT in the Marriott Center on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ or tune in for live play-by-play on Radio app or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.

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